Sports medicine specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating injuries related to participating in sports and/or exercise, specifically the rotation or deformation of joints or muscles caused by engaging in such physical activities. Because of the competitive nature of sports, a primary focus of sports medicine is the rapid recovery of patients, which drives many innovations in the field (Sports Medicine).
Three General Areas of Sports Medicine
Sports medicine can be divided into three general areas: clinical sports medicine, sports surgery, and the physiology of exercise.
Clinical sports medicine
Clinical sports medicine includes the prevention and treatment of athletic injuries and the design of exercise, improvement of performance and nutrition programs for maintaining peak physical performance. It includes the study of the effects of different levels of training and preparation of an individual for physical activity in its full range of sport intensities. Treatment and prevention include exercise programs for increasing strength, flexibility, and endurance. It also encompasses a wide range of programs including physical therapy, fitness tests, advice concerning maintaining energy levels through nutrition, fluid replacements, and the use of protective equipment (sports medicine).
Sports medicine is also concerned with the abuse of so called performance enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids. Some sports medicine practitioners are employed by sports teams to help athletes improve their performance. Usually, this is by the legitimate and ethical application of their special knowledge. However, sometimes it involves the unethical use of artificial performance boosters such as drugs. The specialty was initially practiced primarily by physicians associated with professional sports teams, but with increased interest in amateur sports and even high school sports, it has spread rapidly (sports medicine, n.d.).
Sports surgery may be needed to treat some sport injuries mostly caused from contact sports.
Orthopedic specialists provide comprehensive care for patients who have experienced trauma or sports-related injuries, or for those who need routine care. Orthopedics is the branch of medicine concerned with diagnosing a condition or disorder, identifying and treating an injury, providing rehabilitation to an affected area or function and conditions of the musculoskeletal system – relating to the body’s muscles and skeleton, and including the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves (the Orthopaedic Treatment Team).
Physiology of Exercise
Exercise physiology, a growing field of sports medicine, which involves the study of the body’s response to physical stress. It comprises the science of fitness, the preservation of fitness, and the role of fitness in the prevention and treatment of disease (sports medicine, n.d.).
It also deals with the internal workings of athletes, including functions such as metabolism and respiration, rather than with their body shape or size.
An exercise physiologist studies the acute and chronic physiological responses and adaptations resulting from physical activity. They can apply this knowledge to improve or maintain health, fitness, or performance of an athlete. For example, an exercise physiologist may work as a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialist or a personal trainer (Medicine).
Traditionally, sports medicine was the sole domain of the team doctor, who worked mostly with college, professional, and Olympic athletes. Today, however, the sports medicine team is comprised of many disciplines including, for example, athletic training, biomechanics, exercise physiology, and nutrition (Medicine).
Sports medicine involves physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other health care professionals trained in diagnosis, treatment, research, education, and prevention of athletic injuries. This team of professionals works together to enable an athlete to safely return to his or her sport as soon as possible after an injury or medical problem.
These professionals also participate in research activities that further the understanding of different types of injuries and the human body’s reaction to these injuries. Important facets of sports medicine are the pre-participation physical and the education of athletes, coaches, and parents in conditioning techniques in an attempt to prevent injuries and help athletes of all levels reach their full potential (sports medicine, n.d.).
Every day, millions of amateurs and professionals in the United States participate in sports activities, from soccer and football fields to baseball diamonds and ice rinks. Most sport injuries occurred while participating in one of six sports including baseball, basketball, biking, football, skating, and soccer.
History of Sports Medicine
The field of sports medicine has been in effect since around 800 to 100 B.C. More recently, however, the field of sports medicine is the largest it has ever been with many organizations now existing that share the interest in treating and preventing athletic injuries. For example, the Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS) was established in 1928 in order to assist the athletes of the Winter Games of St. Moritz Olympic Winter Games. In 1950, the National Athletic Trainers Association was founded for the education of athletic trainers. In 1951, the American Medical Association established a committee on Injuries in Sports, which is now a standing committee.
The largest of all sports medicine organizations, the American College of Sports Medicine, was created in 1954. Last, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine was founded in 1971. The field of sports medicine has had vast expansions in recent years. It continues to grow while giving aid to people all across the world (the History of Sports Medicine ).
The Magnitude of Sports Injuries in the U.S.
Since 1987, American Sports Data, Inc. (ASD) has been tracking sports and fitness participation in the U.S. Every year an estimated 50 million people over the age of six are frequent exercisers who participate in a single activity such as running, cycling or treadmill exercise on at least 100 occasions (Comprehensive Study of Sports Injuries in the U.S.).
In addition, over 39 million are frequent participants in a recreational sport such as basketball, tennis, softball or skateboarding, having participated at least 25 times. Another 15 million were outdoors enthusiasts, participating in an active outdoor pursuit such as hiking, mountain biking, or skiing, at least 15 times during the year.
Over all many more Americans participated in some type of activity throughout the year; a clear majority of the population (68%) participated at least once in any of the sports/activities monitored by ASD.
A substantial number of these sports and exercise participants suffer injuries each year. There are an estimated 3.5 million sports-induced injury-related emergency room visits annually. In addition, there are approximately five times that number (17.5 million) of sport injuries per year that are not reported to or treated in emergency rooms (Comprehensive Study of Sports Injuries in the U.S.).
Youth Sport Injuries
Each year, millions of sports-related injuries in youth under age 15 are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, and hospital emergency rooms in the United States, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Over one million of those injuries result from football and basketball alone (Youth & Amateur Sports Injuries).
For youth, participation in athletics improves physical fitness, coordination, and self-discipline, and gives them valuable opportunities to learn teamwork. But sports activities can also result in injuries – some minor, some serious, and still others resulting in lifelong medical problems.
Young athletes are not merely small adults. Their bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are still growing, which makes them more susceptible to injury. What is often a bruise or sprain in an adult can be a potentially serious growth plate injury in a young athlete (Youth & Amateur Sports Injuries).
Most Common Types of Sport Medicine Injuries
Sports injuries result from acute trauma or repetitive stress associated with athletic activities.
Injuries usually affect bones or soft tissue (ligaments, muscles, tendons). Knee, leg, back, and shoulder injuries; stiffness and pain in joints; tendinitis; “tennis elbow”; and dehydration are some common conditions that may be involved (sports medicine).
Bruises (contusions) are the most common sports injury. It is caused when blood collects at the site of an injury and discolors the skin (Haggerty).
Sprains account for one-third of all sports injuries. A sprain is a partial or complete tear of a ligament, a strong band of tissue that connects bones to one another and stabilizes joints.
Shin splints are characterized by soreness and slight swelling of the front, inside, and back of the lower leg, and by sharp pain that develops while exercising and gradually intensifies. Shin splints are caused by overuse or by stress fractures that result from the repeated foot pounding associated with activities like aerobics, long-distance running, basketball, and volleyball.
Fractures account for five to six percent of all sports injuries. The bones of the arms and legs are most apt to be broken (Haggerty).
Brain injury is the primary cause of fatal sports-related injuries. Concussion can result from even minor blows to the head. A concussion can cause loss of consciousness and may affect: balance, comprehension, coordination, hearing, memory, and vision (Haggerty).
Many sports injuries including noncontact sports involved injuries of the head suggesting the need for improved head protection. Injuries involving collisions with others, faulty equipment, poor playing surface conditions, and even being struck by or against objects (balls, bats, helmets) suggest that more needs to be done in regards to preventive protection especially
with equipment-related injuries.
Originally, the main objective of sports medicine was the welfare of competitive professional athletes, but it now encompasses treatment of anyone engaged in sport and exercise.
It is becoming an increasingly important branch of the overall medicine field. More general practitioners are being trained in sports medicine than ever before. The training gives them a better understanding of the physical, physiological, and psychological demands of exercise. This helps them to diagnose sports injuries more effectively, and to prescribe the most suitable forms of prevention, exercise, and treatment to improve the health of all athletes and sports enthusiasts everywhere.
“Comprehensive Study of Sports Injuries in the U.S.” June 2003. American Sports Data. 11 Apr 2009 .
Haggerty, Maureen. “Sports injury.” n.d. answers.com. 11 Apr 2009 .
Medicine, the American College of Sports. “Careers in Sports Medicine and.” n.d. The American College of Sports Medicine. 11 Apr 2009 .
“sports medicine.” 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 10 Apr 2009 .
“sports medicine.” n.d. answer.com. 10 Apr 2009 .
“Sports Medicine.” n.d. Optimalhealth. 9 Apr 2009 .
“The History of Sports Medicine .” n.d. peachtreesportsmed.com. 10 Apr 2009 .
“The Orthopaedic Treatment Team.” 2009. St. John’s Mercy Health Care. 11 Apr 2009 .
“Youth & Amateur Sports Injuries.” Dec 2006. insurevents.com. 9 Apr 2009 .
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